Cold Rain and Snow's Metamorphosis

Cold Rain and Snow's Metamorphosis

Postby old man down » Sun Jul 06, 2008 8:37 pm

I've always believed that Cold Rain and Snow had its best year in the early 70's. But which year, and what happened?

I've just spent a lot of free time this past July 4th weekend studying it and the change, it going from just another song in their repetoire to one of their best sorrowful laments, occured in 1970. (I've listened to about 25 versions for the years 1970 and 1971 from what can be found on Archive.org.)

Even the Dead knew the gem had begun to sparkle as is evidenced by its inclusion in setlists in and around that time:

year # of shows
1966 8
1967 8
1968 2
1969 15
1970 41
1971 10
1972 11
1973 3
1974 1
1975 0

In 1970, the year started and the song was still exhibiting some of the rudiments of the organ playing and the somewhat fast standard low note riff from Garcia, offered as counterpoint to Weir's embellishment on the D and E chords. But the song wasn't cooking yet.

Jerry, around March and April began to morph the low note riff. On Weir's E chord he started to bend further his low G note rather than adding a passing note, and was able to slur the beat with this really cool edginess. It was getting torque that he could use to launch the beat into a lazy meandering of very precise timing juxtaposed against Bobby's much improved rhythm, which had taken on a chugging precision.

Suddenly the song had come into its own, even becoming a lead off song for many of the shows. Helping it along were the dual drummers and the nuance of no organ and no piano. It had become just guitars and a floating beat held together by the drummers, Weir's chugging, and Garcia's biting low note carry-through. I don't exactly know, but several of the versions seem to have tunings of 1/2 note down so that the song was played in the key of Ab rather than A. Maybe. Or maybe the tapers just got their speeds wrong. In any event it had an even further primal feel to it due to the lower pitch.

Around July it was finally fully evolved and very powerful. Jerry's middle riff had taken on a very sorrowful sound; all of the notes were played a little differently than usual, exhibiting a slight push to them to move them along, developing the motive with a slightly heightened urgency. And yet he would experiment with some improvisation to higher notes and offset that sort of exploration with slurring of the melody, often dropping it off just at its most intense note selection, back into his bass line bend of the G note and the crisp counter delivery of the E notes on the open E chord.

Weir was really chugging the rhythm too, and very happy to add the solid rhythm backing the song needed, and with no intent to over perfect his approach. Better that he just stay firmly within the pocket and drive things along with no loss of momentum from fooling with possibility distractions that could make the moment fizzle if given half a chance. The hot lazy summer nights made it all fit all the more.

As is the case when songs come into their own, they only can stay there for so long before the next morph changes them into something else. Cold Rain and Snow started to loose its summer beauty that Fall as it started to become too refined and predictable. One show late in the Fall involved the band trying to punch it up with distortion but that didn't work so well. It was on its way out, its exit like leaves falling from trees, and then it was just a song again.

In 1971, in Port Chester, three days after Mickey Hart had left the band, unable to cope with the fact that his father had ripped all of them off of $20,000, although Cold Rain and Snow had already morphed away from it rare beauty of the summer before, Jerry played the middle lead with one of his most beautiful, refined renditions.

After that it lost its magic, and completely jumped the shark by October of 1971 when Bill changed the drum tempo to somewhat upbeat to include their new piano player, Keith Godchaux.

Perhaps it was that the Dead had too much new material to learn, that Cold Rain and Snow was really only a two chord song, the jam of which could be rendered anew on some other vehicle of the IV and V. Or maybe it was that the Haight was no longer what it had been just a few years before. But for whatever reason Cold Rain and Snow fell by the wayside, and was dropped from its workhorse status to obscurity within just two more years.

It did resurface again in the late 70s, but their sound had lost that rudimentary edginess that you can only get from two guitars, a bass, drums and vocals.
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Postby jonarobb » Mon Jul 07, 2008 12:04 am

That's a freakin' awesome analysis of the tune brother. I also think this song hits it's peak when Jerry slowed it down in 1970. The El Monte show in December has a blistering version with Jerry using the bridge pickup on that SG, killer!

Ironically, the closest it came to this was in the early 80's with Brent. There are a couple of slow churning and chugging versions.
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Postby Pete B. » Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:12 am

I've been a big fan of this tune ever since hearing it for the first time on Steal Your Face.
The arrangement (ie.tempo) on SYF is the one that clicks best for me.

Great song analysis. I will give it a go myself on my next day-off coffee-drinkin' Archive cruise.
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Postby strumminsix » Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:05 am

Seriously cool! I dig the analysis!
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Postby tigerstrat » Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:05 am

I've heard that song hundreds of times and have never gotten a sorrowful feel from it. Belligerence, maybe. I love them all but slightly prefer the early frenetic ones.
"There, in huge black letters, was 'The Grateful Dead'. It just... cancelled my mind out."-Garcia
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Postby b weird » Mon Jul 07, 2008 12:18 pm

Never really dug the song too much, but maybe that's because the magic was gone.

Loved the analysis though and will be sure to check out some summer 70 versions.
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Postby old man down » Tue Jul 08, 2008 6:21 am

tigerstrat, agree, it is not so sorrowful. But when they racheted up the song, the riffs became very sweet. (The original first album had nothing to do with sweetness.)

I've really fallen for this song after listening to all of these versions. It is all I think of, like when you have a tune in your head that you keep playing over and over throughout the day. The good thing is that when I get home I can actually create the melodies myself. If I had the ability it would be really cool to pull all of the middle leads from all of the songs and put them into a single file, back to back, one right after the other. Then I could really get a grasp of the intrinsic potential of the range of the song.

In 1970, Weir, apart from his chugging rhythm strokes, had two counter melodies that he would use, and they're very sweet as well. Since I'm learning the song (anew) for solo acoustic, I'm finding that I get his very sweet melodies to work with Jerry's too, and I can intersperse all of them throughout the song, take it in all sorts of directions, and the song becomes a lament when the lyrics are added in. I really get the song to work not on my steel string, but rather, on my nylon string. The melodies become hauntingly beautiful. And some of the vocals that I heard on some of the cuts involve Weir in the background taking the upper register throughout the choruses which would be really nice to imitate in my own rendition.

Knowing what I know about their setlists, Cold Rain and Snow lost its position in the line up to...Jack Straw. This happened not right away, because Jack Straw had to lose a little newness, but once it had, then it was the first song of shows often enough, as Cold Rain and Snow had once been.

They both share the same lead lines that can be cast against D and E chords. That's the commonality. For Cold Rain and Snow it is just D to E, D to E. For Jack Straw it is D Bm A E, D Bm A E, but the framing is still around D and E, and Jerry could find a familiar groove with the same hand postions on the fingerboard.
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Postby High Peaks » Tue Jul 08, 2008 8:30 am

I was always partial to the 80's version. Loved Brent on the B-3
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Postby Pete B. » Tue Jul 08, 2008 8:52 am

Played this one at our Mon night jam last night (trio with guit/vox, bass, drummer).
Love the Jerry parts (Intro, Solo, Outro).
The high note (Rain and... "Snooooowwww o ohhh ohh ohh ohhh, ohh ohhh") is at the very top end of my range. Ouch.
Funn Stuff!
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Postby strumminsix » Tue Jul 08, 2008 8:52 am

old man down wrote:
Knowing what I know about their setlists, Cold Rain and Snow lost its position in the line up to...Jack Straw. This happened not right away, because Jack Straw had to lose a little newness, but once it had, then it was the first song of shows often enough, as Cold Rain and Snow had once been.


Disagree. CR&S is a Jerry opener. Jack Straw is a Bobby opener and they alternated who opened from show to show.
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Postby old man down » Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:23 am

Had to throw it out, but I don't really know. I've found, though, that when I want to embellish the lead lines of Jack Straw, and really stretch it out, my morphs have been into just the D and E and I noticed that it begins to sound like CR&S, which it should if just the D and E becomes the backdrop.
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Postby High Peaks » Tue Jul 08, 2008 12:15 pm

I agree. Its a very fun song to belt out with the band. :cool:
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Postby jonarobb » Tue Jul 08, 2008 1:42 pm

yeah, that's new to me. i've never associated jack straw with cold rain and snow. technically they have the same key center of A major but aside from that and the tempo, that's about all they share. plus if you go all the way back to 70' obviously jack straw wasn't written yet, but even so, one was really a weir tune and one was really a garcia tune. from 71-74 both jack straw and cold rain would turn up in different parts of the set, cold rain not as frequently but there are still some great versions in 72' and 73'.
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Postby bucketorain » Tue Jul 08, 2008 1:54 pm

jonarobb wrote:yeah, that's new to me. i've never associated jack straw with cold rain and snow. technically they have the same key center of A major but aside from that and the tempo, that's about all they share. plus if you go all the way back to 70' obviously jack straw wasn't written yet, but even so, one was really a weir tune and one was really a garcia tune. from 71-74 both jack straw and cold rain would turn up in different parts of the set, cold rain not as frequently but there are still some great versions in 72' and 73'.


didn't jerry sing verses of Jack Straw, doesn't he sing "I just jumped the watchman right outside the fence" etc..making this a Bob Jer combo?
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Postby strumminsix » Tue Jul 08, 2008 2:20 pm

bucketorain wrote:didn't jerry sing verses of Jack Straw, doesn't he sing "I just jumped the watchman right outside the fence" etc..making this a Bob Jer combo?


It's a Bobby tune.

Words by Hunter, Music by Weir.

Jerry gets the first half of the bridge.

I think it's a stretch to call it a combo song.

Songs in that vein, IMO, The Weight, Let the Good Times Roll.
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